Indigenous student chooses between Oxford and Cambridge

An Indigenous graduate of The University of Western Australia has been accepted into both Oxford and Cambridge universities and has had to choose between them. 

Jessyca Hutchens (28) is one of three recipients of a national Charlie Perkins Scholarship, announced yesterday.  She has decided to accept Oxford's offer and will undertake a three-year DPhil in Fine Arts at the Ruskin School of Art starting in October.  Along with the other scholarship winners, she will travel to the UK next month to choose the college where she will live while studying.

A descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region, Jessyca graduated from UWA in 2010 with a Bachelor of Laws with Distinction and a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in Fine Art History.  Earlier this year her sister Rebecca Hutchens (24) became the first Indigenous student to win the top prize for Medicine, the AMA prize, and her first cousin Aurora Milroy (24) became the first Indigenous student at UWA to gain First Class Honours in Law.

At Oxford, Jessyca will write a thesis about artist in residency programs around the world and the role they play in the art world.  "Having a background in law has given me a good work ethic, methodology and the ability to write clearly," she said.

Jessyca, who was in the special arts program at Applecross Senior High School, also practises as an artist, including doing work for the music group Decibel.  "Many people in my family do art," she said.  "It's part of my heritage."

Among her many awards, Jessyca won the UWA Graduates Association Prize in Fine Arts and the Dr Dorothy W and Dr Robert Collins Prize for Indigenous Law Students.  Between 2010 and 2013 she lived in Berlin where she worked as an archival assistant and editor of the website Berlin Art Link.  She is working as a sessional tutor at UWA and as a compliance officer at Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation in Perth.

The other scholarship winners are Jessica Buck from the University of Newcastle, a descendant of the Kamilaroi people, and Tamara Murdoch, a descendant of the Noongar and Yindjibarndi people, from Edith Cowan University.

The scholarship honours the late Charlie Perkins AO, one of the first Indigenous Australians to graduate from university.  He was inspired to undertake tertiary study after playing soccer against the University of Oxford and graduated from Sydney University in 1966.

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